Workers’ Compensation

Iowa Woman Sprayed with Fire Hose Denied Workers’ Comp

In January, Iowa Deputy Workers’ Compensation Commissioner William Grell denied an injured worker’s claim for permanent disability benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation program. (Des Moines Register, Jan. 30, 2014)  The worker, an employee of West Liberty Foods, filed a claim seeking permanent partial disability compensation in connection with a March 2010 incident at the turkey processing facility. The female employee was one of roughly 15 workers exposed to potentially hazardous fumes during an ammonia spill at the plant.  Because of the spill, the worker was forced to strip down in front of other individuals. She was then sprayed with a fire hose in what turned out to be an unnecessary decontamination process. The worker and other employees were transported to University of Iowa Hospitals ... Read More »

Workers’ Compensation Physician Reports in Iowa

Your doctor plays an integral role in your workers’ compensation case. Her professional opinions and diagnoses will greatly affect the benefits you recover. Your doctor will have a hand in determining when you can return to work and your degree of impairment, and even the presence of an injury, such as if you have a cumulative injury you believe is related to your job tasks.  As such, your physician will send reports to the insurance company regarding your injury status.  What forms must a physician submit?  There are plenty of forms that workers and employers must fill out when dealing with a workers’ compensation case. But workers’ compensation in Iowa does not have a standard form that physicians must use to report about a patient’s ... Read More »

Mediation of an Iowa Workers’ Compensation Case

When disputes arise among injured workers and workers’ compensation insurance companies, workers have the option to pursue mediation to resolve the dispute. Mediation can help workers reach a quicker resolution to their dispute. Talk to your attorney about whether your case is a good candidate for mediation.  The Mediation Process  Mediation is a different form of dispute resolution than arbitration hearings. Arbitration hearings are held with Deputy Commissioners (Administrative Law Judges, ALJ) or the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner (IWCC) who issues decisions. Mediators don’t rule on the merits of the cases they handle. They only attempt to get the parties involved in the case to reach an agreement that satisfies the dispute. Mediators usually have a private mediation practice and are paid for their services.  ... Read More »

Arbitration in Iowa Workers’ Compensation Cases

Workers may find themselves in disputes with an employer or workers’ compensation insurer during the workers’ comp process. In such cases, they may have to file a petition for arbitration to resolve the dispute with the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner (IWCC).  Overview of Arbitration in the Iowa Workers’ Comp Process  When a worker first becomes aware of a dispute regarding the workers’ comp process, the first step is to speak with the employer and insurance company to try to work out an agreement. If an agreement between the parties cannot be reached, the worker can file a petition for arbitration with the IWCC.  The parties will exchange any evidence they have and may request interrogatories from each other – these are questions the other party ... Read More »

Guidelines to Determine Workers’ Comp Impairment Rating

Permanent injuries that workers suffer on the job are assigned an impairment rating. This is an important factor to determine the disability benefits to which an injured worker is entitled. While there are objective medical tests doctors use to evaluate the patient’s condition, a lot of the impairment rating is determined by the doctor’s opinion of how the injury affects a worker’s ability to perform the activities of daily living (ADL).  What is an impairment rating?  After a doctor initially treats a work injury, the worker eventually reaches the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI). At that point, the worker may be assigned an impairment rating, which affects his or her permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. Doctors assign the worker an impairment rating that assesses ... Read More »

Process of Filing Workers’ Comp Petition for Alternate Care in Iowa

After being injured at work, you are to report the injury to your employer within 90 days of when you knew or should have known your condition was work related to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. In addition to disability benefits, your employer is required to provide you with reasonable medical care for your injuries.  Obviously if you suffer life-threatening or serious injury requiring emergency care, you will receive care from any ambulance or emergency department necessary. After that, your employer will choose your doctor.  Technically you can see a doctor of your choosing, but workers’ comp will not cover those visits or treatments, nor will it factor into decisions about your case.   In Iowa, the medical care for your work injury that workers’ ... Read More »

Functional Capacity Exam for Workers’ Compensation in Iowa

As you go through the workman’s comp process in Iowa, you’ll have to meet deadlines, provide the right documentation, and meet various other requirements. For instance, you may be required to go through a functional capacity exam (FCE) to assess your ability to work.  What is a functional capacity exam?  The FCE is an exam that workers’ compensation insurers can use to assess your injury and your whole body. It differs from an independent medical exam (IME), as an FCE determines your capacity for work instead of medically evaluating your condition.  Some basics about the exam that you should know are:  An occupational or physical therapist may perform the test. The locations can very. It could be any number of offices including your lawyer’s or ... Read More »

Updated OSHA Guidelines for Poultry Processors

The federal government recently updated Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for poultry processing in their brochure ‘Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injuries in Poultry Processing.’  Given that many poultry processing injuries stem from ergonomic issues, OSHA aims to present guidelines to reduce musculoskeletal disorders in poultry workers.  It notes that “a variety of injuries and illnesses…occur from repeated use or overexertion, including:  carpal tunnel syndrome; tendinitis; rotator cuff injuries (a shoulder problem); epicondylitis (an elbow problem); trigger finger; and muscle strains and low back injuries.”  What guidelines does the report present?  The OSHA report recommends strong management support to implement the ergonomics process. It recommends communicating importance of worker safety and health, committing adequate resources to the ergonomics process, and “integrating health and safety concerns ... Read More »

Can workers’ comp just stop making disability payments?

Workers’ comp can stop paying you under certain circumstances. The insurer may stop payments if the worker returns to work, for example. Otherwise, workers must receive a 30-day written notice that explains why the benefits are stopping and explaining that they may file a claim with the workers’ compensation commissioner if they disagree with the stoppage.  Benefits Stop Upon Returning to the Job  The most common circumstance for stopped payments occurs when an employee returns to the job. If a worker in Des Moines suffered a knee injury that kept him out of work for more than seven days, he’ll receive temporary total disability (TTD) benefits until able to return to the job. Once he does, his disability payments will stop.  But if that worker ... Read More »

Can workers’ compensation cover treatments like massage and acupuncture as part of my medical treatment?

If an injured worker wishes to undergo acupuncture and/or massage as part of his or her treatment regimen, the injured employee may discuss this with the doctor. The physician may recommend it as helpful and part of the worker’s care and recovery. However, if the doctor does not recommend or approve the treatment as part of the treatment regimen, workers’ comp may not cover it.  Under workers’ compensation law in Iowa, employers must provide medical care for injured Des Moines workers who are hurt in the scope of their employment or who develop a medical condition from exposure in the workplace. They must provide this care as needed to treat the worker’s condition.  Employers may even choose the employee’s medical care, i.e. choose the doctor ... Read More »

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